March 24, 2008
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
RICHARD CORSETTO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Appeal No. 06-036.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted March 10, 2008
Before Judges Gilroy and Baxter.
Defendant Richard Corsetto was convicted in the municipal court of Florham Park and again after a trial de novo in the Law Division, of driving while his driver's license was suspended, N.J.S.A. 39:3-40. The Law Division imposed appropriate monetary fines and penalties, suspended defendant's driving privileges for a period of one-year and required defendant to serve ten days in the Sheriff's Labor Assistance Program. We affirm.
On September 29, 2005, Officer Thomas Ciasullo was on routine patrol in Florham Park when he conducted a random mobile data terminal check on the license plate of the vehicle being operated by defendant. Officer Ciasullo determined from the computer check that defendant's license had been suspended. He accordingly conducted a motor vehicle stop. In response to the officer's request that he produce his driver's license, defendant was unable to do so. He insisted that his license was not suspended, although he volunteered that the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) "wanted him to either call the office or respond to the office."
The State's proofs established that defendant's license had been suspended on January 18, 2005, when he was found guilty of driving while intoxicated (DWI), N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, in the Allendale municipal court. At sentencing, the judge suspended defendant's driving privileges for a period of seven months and directed him to attend an alcohol treatment program at an approved Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC). On February 22, 2005, defendant paid the MVC the required IDRC program fee and driver's license restoration fee, even though his period of suspension had not yet expired and he had not completed the IDRC program.
At trial in the Florham Park municipal court, the State introduced a certified copy of defendant's driving abstract, verifying the January 18, 2005 suspension of defendant's license and his February 22, 2005 payment of the restoration fee and IDRC program fee. The abstract did not show that defendant's driving privileges had ever been restored.
Defendant argued before the municipal court, and again in the Law Division, that he could not be convicted of driving while suspended absent proof that he had ever been notified of the January 18, 2005 suspension of his driving privileges. He relied on State v. Wenof, 102 N.J. Super. 370, 375 (Law Div. 1968). Both the municipal court and the Law Division rejected that argument and concluded that there was sufficient proof to demonstrate that defendant was aware both that his license had been suspended and that it had not been restored.
In particular, the Law Division judge reasoned that at the time defendant was convicted of DWI and the sentence was imposed, the judge was required to "collect" defendant's driver's license and forward it to the MVC. See N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(c).*fn1 The Law Division accordingly concluded that defendant was aware of the suspension. The Law Division also pointed to testimony demonstrating that defendant had paid a driver's license restoration fee, from which the judge concluded that no one would pay a restoration fee unless he knew that his license had been suspended. The Law Division also concluded that the proofs were sufficient to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant's driving privileges had not been restored because the certified driver's abstract showed that his driving privileges were not reinstated until January 27, 2006,*fn2 four months after the motor vehicle stop.
On appeal, defendant presents the same arguments he asserted before the Law Division. We have carefully considered his arguments in light of the record and applicable law and conclude that they lack sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). We add only the following comments. We are satisfied, as was the Law Division, that the suspension of defendant's license on January 18, 2005, occurred while defendant was present in court, and he accordingly received actual notice of the suspension. Unlike a circumstance where a defendant's license is suspended due to points and the notice is mailed, thereby presenting a potential issue of whether a driver is actually aware that his license was suspended, no such uncertainty exists here.
We recognize that more than seven months had elapsed between the time defendant's license was suspended on January 18, 2005, and September 29, 2005, when defendant was charged with driving while suspended. Unquestionably, the mere passage of seven months does not signify that driving privileges have been automatically restored because those who are convicted of driving while intoxicated must also complete the IDRC program requirements. See N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(b). Moreover, defendant's inability to produce his driver's license when Officer Ciasullo asked him to produce it and his comment that the MVC wanted him to call the office are evidence that defendant was aware that his license had not been restored. Defendant has presented nothing that would call into question the accuracy of the abstract the State provided that showed that his license was still suspended at the time of the September 29, 2005 car stop. We accordingly conclude that the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant was guilty of driving while suspended.